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Interactive advert irritation coming to a tablet near you...

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This week could go down as the dawn of the interactive multimedia advert era, as both Yahoo and Sony make very different plays in the field. Yahoo launched an advertising platform called "Living Ads" aimed at tablets, which combines print, online and TV type advertising on a single page, kicking off with a campaign for launch partner Toyota‘s Prius car.

Meanwhile Sony has teamed up with social media company SocialVive in Latin America to offer interactive adverts via social networking sites such as Facebook, as well as games such as Farmville and CityVille. Living Ads has done the better job of integrating the three elements of video, still image and interactivity within a coherent frame, while the Sony/SocialVibe initiative has brought social networking into play, with the prospect of amplifying the impact virally through sharing.

Indeed SocialVibe has already demonstrated the power of ad sharing via social networking sites in some regions outside Latin America. SocialVibe has promoted the idea of "value exchange advertising", where in effect consumers are bribed to watch the advert by being offering something such as credit they can spend in a social game, or a donation to their favorite charity. SocialVibe is part of the Facebook credit scheme, where users can gain credits to participate in various games in return for interacting with adverts.

On Facebook, 40 per cent of SocialVibe adverts are shared with others, according to the company, which hopes to gain similar traction in Latin America through the Sony tie-up. The key there is that Sony through its Sony Pictures Television Ad Sales (SPT Ad Sales) Latin America controls a lot of TV advertising in the region and can now offer extensions to play in some game various social media platforms via PCs and tablets, allowing interactive engagement.

SPT Ad Sales oversees all advertising sales for Sony‘s branded television networks in the region, as well as representing premium networks outside the Sony Pictures stable. Sony and SocialVibe have been encouraged by early research indicating that the ability to interact generates greater brand awareness as well as engagement.

Likewise Yahoo has come to market armed with some positive data, citing a study suggesting that readers of its digital magazine Livestand were 78 per cent more likely to interact with the ad and twice as likely to spend more time with it, than they would with the same content in a conventional static advert. The study indicated that 24 per cent of readers had a higher opinion of a brand exposed via a "Living Ad" and were more likely to talk about it. Purchase intent also increased significantly from 2 per cent percent for static ads to 16 per cent for the Living Ad version. Livestand was launched a few weeks ago, providing the launch pad for Live Ads.

Unfortunately there are also some less pleasing numbers. Yahoo has hinted that ad packages for Livestand, which can include living ads, rich media, and still images, will vary from $200,000 to $500,000 depending on how intricate they are and the period of the sponsorship, which will be a deterrent for smaller brands. For the moment though there is only one company involved, Toyota, as the launch partner, with others waiting for firmer evidence that the high cost will be paid back. Initially the SocialVibe model is likely to grow faster since it has lower cost of entry and will be suitable for lower value products or services.

But the Live Stand approach has clear potential for digital magazine formats of the kind favored by tablets. The Prius advert starts off just like many other tablet ads appearing beside the associated news content. But instead of remaining static, the car then starts moving across the screen, which when tapped expands the advert into various surreal animated scenes. Clickable content is indicated within these via white circles located appropriately to provide more detail about specific parts of the car such as the engine. As a proof of concept this works well, highlighting the opportunities for increasing appeal, creating engagement, and providing additional content that cannot be accommodated inside a conventional print or TV ad. Existing online ads do have this potential, but often lack the impact, and invite being summarily bypassed or ignored.

But for Yahoo! the cost for brands will have to come down, and the lesson from SocialVibe is that users may need a little financial incentive for their engagement, no matter how powerful the graphics and the message. Some though will want more than a few credits to play a game. However for pay TV operators there are other possibilities, such as free or discounted premium content, and that has been shown to work.

Copyright © 2011, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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